Memento Mori

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24

I buried Viola and the children so they could have peace. They deserved that much. I hid them near an old pathway that was once used by trail maintenance. The way was overrun by nature and out of service from disastrous flooding.
Eventually another strong storm will come and wash away their remains. That's what happens in New Orleans. That's why they don't bury the dead in the ground.

I put the historian's body in a shallow, vegetated area. The territory was a favorite feeding ground for gators.

Come days later, search teams discovered his van near the wildlife preserve. The Enforcement Division of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries said a dismembered body was located. A necropsy confirmed that an alligator fatally bit a man. Investigators found parts of a torso inside the reptile. In the pocket of a bloody tan jacket, was an ID badge for 'The Darkness Walking Tour Company'. It belonged to Victorio Vincent Vance, aka the historian.
His parents told the authorities that he favored the nature preserve and often went on walks there. The commission's investigation determined that Vance went off course while on an evening hike, which ultimately led to his gruesome fate.

I didn't know what to do after losing V. I walked along a paved roadway. The area was dominated by darkness because of a vast treeline. Not a single vehicle passed by.
Mom used to tell me, "there's nothing in this world that can trouble you as much as your own thoughts." She was totally right.

I walked for miles.

Up the road there was a dilapidated Baptist Church. It looked like the victim of a hurricane. The spire was completely ripped down. The pointed tower was in fragments, some buried in the earth. The belfry framework was in ruins, and the bells were exposed to the elements. The building's structure was covered with airborne algae and rot.
The front doors were ajar. I wondered, would I burst into flames if I entered a place of God?
"Please join me," an eldritch voice invited me in. "All are welcome here."
I slowly opened the decaying doors. The nave of the church was completely destroyed. The wooden floor was severely buckled and striped. The pews were split and warped from water damage. A figure sat on the front pew in front of the fractured altar.
"Come sit," the peculiar man slapped the pew with the flat of his hand.
I sat beside the man. His hair was sleek-yet-messy. He wore a filthy t-shirt and distressed acid-wash jeans.
"What are you doing in here?" I asked.
"Praying." He raised his folded hands.
"My Regal drove off the road about a mile back. I couldn't find help." He focused on the damaged plaster crucifix above the altar.

"Can I ask you something?"
I nodded my head.
"Why am I hated, but you're loved?"
I was hesitant to answer but strangely confident with my response.
"Because you're the painful truth and I'm a beautiful lie."
The man shook his head and snickered.

The surface high temperature that morning was 79° but there was an unusual crispness in the air. The earthy, meaty smell of decay was unexpectedly covered up by a floral, citrus-y odor.

"Make sure she does the dishes, she always leaves them to spite me."
He stood up and extended his palm in the vertical position. I firmly shook the man's hand. He kindly smirked and confidently walked out of the church.

For some reason — I felt relief.

I left the church and headed back to the city.

I eventually made it to Interstate 90 and hitchhiked. A man driving a midsize SUV graciously gave me a ride. His name was Lawrence and he was visiting from Jacksonville, Florida. Lawrence was a chatterbox and to pass time he told dirty jokes.

"Alright, a charter bus full of nuns is on its way to a spiritual retreat. Tragically, the bus plunges off of a cliff and they all die.
They arrive at the gates of heaven and meet St. Peter. St. Peter says to them, 'Sisters, welcome to Heaven! Please form a single-file line. I must ask each of you one question. You must answer honestly if you wish to have access beyond the gates.'
They all agree to be truthful and form a line.
St. Peter asks the first Nun, 'Sister, have you ever touched a penis?'
The Sister responds, 'Well, there was this one time that I kinda, sorta — touched one with the tip of my pinky finger…'
St. Peter says, 'Alright Sister, now dip the tip of your pinky finger in the Holy Water, and you may enter.' So she did so.
St. Peter turns to the second nun and asks, 'Sister, have you ever touched a penis?'
She says, 'Well, there was this one time that I held on to one for a moment…'
'Alright Sister, now just wash your hands in the Holy Water, and you may enter.' So the second nun does as he asks.
After she enters, St. Peter hears some commotion at the back of the line. He sees one of the nuns cutting in front of others. St. Peter is furious and demands an explanation for the nun's rudeness.
She responds 'Well if I'm going to have to gargle this stuff, I'd rather do it before Sister Mary sticks her ass in it!''

The jokes were tasteless and the punchlines were nauseating.
"I gotta ask, Lawrence. Are the jokes really appropriate for the kids?"
"What kids?"
I pointed to the two girls in the backseat. Lawrence looked into the rearview mirror.
"What —?" He turned to look over his shoulder. "What do you mean?"
"The two blonde girls in the matching paisley dresses."
Lawrence's face was masked by terror. He slammed on the brakes.
"Get out. Get the fuck out!"
"I'm sorry if I offended you —"
"GET OUT!"
I was deserted underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway. The tram stop was only blocks away. I made it to Viola's mansion before sunrise.
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